I avoided “Batman vs. Superman” at the theater because it seemed dreary and was reviewed poorly and I had other stuff going on when it was out. But it’s streaming on Amazon now for $5 and that’s worth it, I suppose. What can I say? I’m a fanboy and even if I have to hate-watch a superhero movie, I’m gonna watch it. So I did tonight.
Thing is: I didn’t hate it. It was far from great, of course, and in some places it was kinda dumb. The biggest problem wasn’t what they actually did in any given place in the movie, though, as much as it was how they structured the whole thing in order to set up other DC movies. In short: they tried to do too much in one movie. They tried to make up for seven years of Marvel’s head start in one damn flick. That was a mistake.
Anyway, here were 35 observations I had in the course of watching it, written down in the moment of watching it. If you haven’t seen it, yeah, obvious spoilers here. If you haven’t seen it by now, though, you probably don’t want to anyway, so who cares?
1. By now do we need to see Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered again? Does anyone who chooses to watch this movie not know how that all went down by now? Batman’s origin story is a close second to Jesus’ at this point, right? I will give points for some imaginative Martha Wayne pearl-destroying here, though. Those pearls ALWAYS have to spill in the alley. This is the first time recoil from the gun that killed her broke the necklace, though. Neat!
2. Wait, are the bats levitating young Bruce Wayne? What the shit? That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
3. Clark Kent already being with Lois and her knowing he’s Superman totally deprives us of a “Man of Steel 2″ that tracks the whole Niagara Falls stuff from “Superman 2,” which is totally underrated. Also: I love Amy Adams, like, a lot, but Margot Kidder is the gold standard for Lois Lane. She was tough and cool in ways they just don’t make ‘em these days and I can’t see an Amy Adams scene without thinking that Kidder would’ve made it more … brassy.
4. Superman looking upset at Batman branding criminals is rich given how many thousands he and Zod splatted as collateral damage in the last flick. I’m sorry, dude, but you do NOT have the moral high ground here.
5. Jesse Eisenberg got a lot of crap for this performance so I’ve been told to be prepared to not like him at all, but that’s a bit unfair: I’ve disliked him in almost everything he’s ever been in, so this can’t really hurt things.
6. I’m liking Bruce Wayne/Batman’s detective work so far. There was nowhere near enough of that in all of the previous Batman movies. Also: the crumbling Wayne Manor + Bruce living in a modern lakeside house on the property is a nice touch. No one in this day and age would’ve kept that big ass castle. It’d be donated or subdivided or something. Bruce letting it crumble makes all kinds of sense, really. The last thing I’d ever believe from “Dark Knight Rises” was Bale’s Wayne rebuilding and going back to live in that place.
7. In every iteration of Superman, it seems, he springs into action after seeing some crisis on TV news. Think of the power that puts in the hands of cable news. That’s who Senator Holly Hunter should be having hearings about.
8. The Neil deGrasse Tyson cameo. This has to be the first bit of sci-fi he hasn’t “well, actually’d” in years, right? Or maybe he did and donated his paycheck to the Society for Joyless Literalism.
9. Everyone mocked it, but I liked the Batman dream sequence when he’s being captured by Superman’s stromtroopers or whatever they are. Specifically, it was a nice use of short actors to make Affleck look way bigger than all of them. I like old Batman so far. He reminds me of Frank Miller’s old Batman and how freakin’ beefy he was, as if his stature grew as his legend did. This Batman, some 20 years into his career would loom that way, at least in his dreams. It’s a subtle thing from director Zack Snyder. Maybe the only subtle thing he’s ever done in his life.
10. So much Dodge product placement. Literally every person in Gotham drives a Dodge.
11. The mechanism the Batmobile uses to get into the Bat Cave here – into the river – is pretty good. Someplace in the bottom of this mess is a really good Batman movie that didn’t get the chance to see the light of day.
12. Putting Holly Hunter, Diane Lane and Amy Adams in the same movie is, I feel, a gift from Zack Snyder to me. There is absolutely nothing in this movie that is sexy, but at various times in my life and their careers, those three were … important to me in ways I’d prefer not to go into here.
13. Superman saying, with a heavy heart, that he was “righting wrongs for a ghost,” referring to his dad, Kevin Costner, makes me think that if we wanted to we could pool our resources and make a sequel to “Field of Dreams” that crosses over with “Man of Steel.” It would be the single worst movie of all time and would consume the world along with it. There are, for some reason, a lot of people who like movies about guys with unexplained daddy issues with lots of brooding.
14. Bruce Wayne beating up and lugging tires to keep in shape. Batman does CrossFit? OK. But who does he have to brag to about it? The ultimate paradox!
15. Corny, but Bruce talking about how fighting criminals doesn’t matter much and how dealing with Superman is really important rings pretty true. Not sure if it’s the writing or Affleck, but I’m totally buying this version of Bruce Wayne/Batman as a character.
16. Nancy Grace? Is there a crappy cable news person NOT in this movie?
17. For whatever you can say about Eisenberg’s overacting at last he’s acting. The faceoff between him and and Supes on top of the building before the Batman fight is like watching someone play tennis against a brick wall. Henry Cavill looks really good in the suit. But he brings nothing to the table as an actor. And I suspect Eisenberg’s issue is less his acting than the writing. They don’t seem to have any kind of handle on Lex Luthor as a character.
18. A flashback gives us yet ANOTHER Batman origin story reenactment. Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg get 15 seconds each in a montage. Wonder Woman gets a still photo and a couple of boring scenes. That seems somewhat unfair.
19. Batman vs. Superman fight: Better than I expected. I was worried it’d be all fast-cut hyperkinetic silliness. This was way more straightforward than I thought it’d be. Obviously there is a lot owed to Frank Miller here – and an experienced Batman vs. young dumb Superman helps the believability factor – but nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be.
20. OK, the “Save … Martha …” crap is as hokey as hell and just as bad as advertised by people who saw this at the theater. Batman has seen it all. He probably had the Joker by the neck eight times and didn’t let him talk his way out of crap, but dumb Superman grunts his mom’s name and it throws Bats for a loop. Sure. Oy.
21. And yes, in case we forgot from an hour and a half ago, we get to watch Batman’s origin story AGAIN. All we are missing is a chryon on the screen with neon arrows pointing to his mom saying “MARTHA” I once met another guy named Craig. It didn’t really throw me. I feel like Batman could deal.
22. Lois looking at Supes after he kinda got his ass kicked: a little awkward. She’s maybe a bit less impressed with her dude now, methinks.
23. I think Batman just killed a dude with bullets from his plane. That seems a little off-canon.
24. Batman cleaning house in the room where Martha Kent is being held. (a) this is a good Batman ass-kicking. Maybe better than any of the fights in the Bale/Nolan movies. At least it’s more like comic book Batman taking on everyone and I kind of like it; but (b) more awkwardness. First Batman kicks Superman’s ass in front of his girl, now he’s saving Superman’s mom for him. If Superman had kids they’d probably call Batman “dad.”
25. The Doomsday stuff is happening now. I feel like the reach is starting to exceed the grasp. If they wanted to they could’ve ended the movie with the Batman vs. Superman fight and Luthor getting thrown in prison. They could’ve paced it differently and found some way to tie-in and set up the other Justice League folks too, leaving this a somewhat smaller movie but a better one. Now we’re going God-Mode with it and I suspect that things are going to turn CGI incoherent and they’re gonna waste Doomsday when he probably deserves his own movie.
26. Also worth noting is that this Doomsday stuff is ruining Luthor as a character. A GREAT deal of the charm of the Hackman’s Luthor was his figuring out Superman on the fly, as it were, and also just subtly pushing stuff forward while also having his own agenda irrespective of Superman. Making the Eisenberg Luthor into a monomaniacal anti-Superman figure right out of the gate AND allowing him to instantly master FREAKING ALIEN CLONING in the first movie is, to put it bluntly, shooting the damn wad. He’s supposed to be a human connection kinda villain, the appeal of which is being how he always manages to stay even with Supes somehow. Where the hell do you go with him from here?
27. Balls of flame and fire and silliness. Just as I feared.
28. I love Jeremy Irons, but I haven’t seen someone mail in a role like he’s doing with Alfred in a long time. Maybe Clooney in the last “Ocean’s” movie? I bet they filmed all of his scenes via video conference from a TV studio near his house.
29. I wasn’t aware nukes were contact missiles like SAMs or whatever. Who knew?
30. Wonder Woman’s entrance: nice. But as with Batman, I feel like we’d be better served here if she had a standalone movie before this too. Marvel truly worked out their characters before the big meetup in Avengers and it gave it WAY more substance and resonance and, more importantly, allowed them to dispose with exposition and crap and just get down to it. They did “Man of Steel.” Do a “Wonder Woman” and an Affleck “Batman” and THEN do this Justice League stuff. It’d probably go way better.
31. Lois Lane has been underwater trying to get that spear a long time. If only there was someone who was good in water who could help out right now. That would be super useful. Sadly, there is no one in the DC universe that can breathe under water and help out in a big fight. Apparently.
32. Superman’s “I love you” to Lois just before impaling Doomsday: eh. Not saying he’s the most relatable character ever, but that didn’t really feel like the time and place. Maybe if it was a first-ever “I love you,” but they’re pretty established by now. When you gotta work, you gotta work. She’d understand if you just took off.
33. What the hell is this funeral? The Kents are regular farmers, not some sort of Amish folk. I knew some farmers when I was a kid. Their funerals were like everyone else’s. They drove Buicks and stuff and went to funeral homes with red carpet. But I guess a horse and carriage in the tall corn is more dramatic.
34. Dead Superman feels like a second movie beat. Like an Empire Strikes Back situaish. Which, again, this series has not earned yet. Doomdsday in a Part II Justice League movie would’ve accomplished that. DC was so scared it was losing to Marvel it tried to go too fast. The world ain’t ending yet. This all could’ve played out over more time.
35. Oh, you mean Superman isn’t dead for good? Shocking.
OK, that’s all I got. This bit of nitpicking and snarking aside, I liked this all way more than I expected to. It’s not a crap movie. It was just in desperate need of some reining in and some editorial control from someone with long term buy-in. A tighter movie that ended with the Batman vs. Superman fight and set things up for the future might have been risky, but it would’ve been stronger. As would’ve a couple more DC standalones to make us actually care about them all coming together to fight a common foe.
I’ve seen people burying DC over this flick – and certainly over the upcoming “Suicide Squad,” which looks wretched – but they have some good things to work with if they let someone just make a movie rather than try to do EVERYTHING at once.
Give me a Affleck Batman movie and a Wonder Woman flick and we’ll see where we stand.